The Best Minds of My GenerationTitle: The Best Minds of My Generation – A Literary History of the Beats

Author: Allen Ginsberg

Pages: 496 Pages

Publisher: Grove Atlantic/Grove Press

The Blurb

In 1977, twenty years after the publication of his landmark poem “Howl,” and Jack Kerouac’s seminal book On the Road, Allen Ginsberg decided it was time to teach a course on the literary history of the Beat Generation. Through the creation of this course, which he ended up teaching five times, first at the Naropa Institute and later at Brooklyn College, Ginsberg saw an opportunity to present the history of Beat Literature in his own inimitable way. Compiled and edited by renowned Beat scholar Bill Morgan, and with an introduction by Anne Waldman, The Best Minds of My Generation presents the lectures in edited form, complete with notes, and paints a portrait of the Beats as Ginsberg knew them: friends, confidantes, literary mentors, and fellow revolutionaries.

Ginsberg was seminal to the creation of a public perception of Beat writers and knew all of the major figures personally, making him uniquely qualified to be the historian of the movement. In The Best Minds of My Generation, Ginsberg shares anecdotes of meeting Kerouac, Burroughs, and other writers for the first time, explains his own poetics, elucidates the importance of music to Beat writing, discusses visual influences and the cut-up method, and paints a portrait of a group who were leading a literary revolution. For Beat aficionados and neophytes alike, The Best Minds of My Generation is a personal yet critical look at one of the most important literary movements of the twentieth century.

The Review

I was really eager to read The Best Minds of My Generation but had been put off by an experience of reading On The Road by Jack Kerouac. This will probably shock a lot of people but I just didn’t rate it. I read it because I felt like I was supposed to have read it. But, to be perfectly honest, I just wasn’t that impressed.

Anyway, I decided to bite the bullet and go for it and just immerse myself in the world of the Beat Writers.

I kind of wish I had chosen another book to read. That probably sounds really harsh but it is because this book, The Best Minds of My Generation, is clearly for hardcore Beat enthusiasts. It is not for someone who is tentatively dipping their toes into this genre.

My recommendation would be that anyone wanting to learn about the history of this period then look elsewhere. If you already love this genre of writing then knock yourself out.

The Best Minds of My Generation – A Literary History of the Beats by Allen Ginsberg is available now.

For more information regarding Grove Atlantic (@groveatlantic) please visit www.groveatlantic.com.

2 Stars

The End We Start WithTitle: The End We Start From

Author: Megan Hunter

Pages: 140 Pages

Publisher: Grove Atlantic

The Blurb

The End We Start From is strange and powerful, and very apt for these uncertain times. I was moved, terrified, uplifted – sometimes all three at once. It takes skill to manage that, and Hunter has a poet’s understanding of how to make each word count.”—Tracy Chevalier

Pre-empted by publishers around the world within days of the 2016 London Book Fair, The End We Start From heralds the arrival of Megan Hunter, a dazzling and unique literary talent. Hunter’s debut is a searing original, a modern-day parable of rebirth and renewal, of maternal bonds, and the instinct to survive and thrive in the absence of all that’s familiar.

As London is submerged below flood waters, a woman gives birth to her first child, Z. Days later, she and her baby are forced to leave their home in search of safety. They head north through a newly dangerous country seeking refuge from place to place, shelter to shelter, to a desolate island and back again. The story traces fear and wonder, as the baby’s small fists grasp at the first colours he sees, as he grows and stretches, thriving and content against all the odds.

Written with poise and poeticism, The End We Start From is an indelible and elemental first book—a lyrical vision of the strangeness and beauty of new motherhood, and a portentous tale of endurance in the face of ungovernable change.

The Review

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter is a dystopian fiction lover’s dream. Set on the road, a family try to survive when their home of London is flooded beyond recognition. This story of survival is twisted and haunting.

Megan Hunter’s stop/start style of writing really connects the reader to the chaos and insecurity being felt by the main characters. The lack of character names again adds to the disjointed quality and you can’t help but feel the disparate nature between adults who knew what the world was like before and the children who will only ever know this crazy fight for survival.

Considering that The End We Start From is only a short book it does have a serious bite to it. I was left thinking about it long after it had ended.

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter is available in November 2017.

For more information regarding Megan Hunter please visit her Twitter page (@meganfnhunter)

For more information regarding Grove Atlantic (@groveatlantic) please visit www.groveatlantic.com.

3 Stars

Difficult WomenTitle: Difficult Women

Author: Roxane Gay

Pages: 272 Pages

Publisher: Grove Atlantic

The Blurb

Award-winning author and powerhouse talent Roxane Gay burst onto the scene with An Untamed State and the New York Times bestselling essay collection Bad Feminist (Harper Perennial). Gay returns with Difficult Women, a collection of stories of rare force and beauty, of hardscrabble lives, passionate loves, and quirky and vexed human connection.

The women in these stories live lives of privilege and of poverty, are in marriages both loving and haunted by past crimes or emotional blackmail. A pair of sisters, grown now, have been inseparable ever since they were abducted together as children, and must negotiate the elder sister’s marriage. A woman married to a twin pretends not to realize when her husband and his brother impersonate each other. A stripper putting herself through college fends off the advances of an overzealous customer. A black engineer moves to Upper Michigan for a job and faces the malign curiosity of her colleagues and the difficulty of leaving her past behind. From a girls’ fight club to a wealthy subdivision in Florida where neighbors conform, compete, and spy on each other, Gay delivers a wry, beautiful, haunting vision of modern America reminiscent of Merritt Tierce, Jamie Quatro, and Miranda July.

The Review

I don’t know what I was expecting when I picked up Roxane Gay’s book Difficult Women. If I’m honest I didn’t realise it was a book of short stories. What I got was a book of diverse and compelling tales that I was intrigued by.

No two stories had the same voice. Every time a new story started I was transported to a new place and time and new characters to figure out. It really is an interesting compendium of stories. I don’t want to go into details about the stories because they are something that you should discover yourself but I promise you that Roxane Gay doesn’t hold back. Be prepared to read a story that packs a punch.

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay is available now.

For more information regarding Roxanne Gay (@rgay) please visit www.roxanegay.com.

For more information regarding Grove Atlantic (@groveatlantic) please visit www.groveatlantic.com.

3 Stars

The Blurb

Bream Gives Me Hiccups: And Other Stories is the whip-smart fiction debut of Academy Award-nominated actor Jesse Eisenberg. Known for his iconic film roles but also for his regular pieces in the New Yorker and his two critically acclaimed plays, Eisenberg is an emerging voice in fiction.

Taking its title from a group of stories that begin the book, Bream Gives Me Hiccups moves from contemporary L.A. to the dormrooms of an American college to ancient Pompeii, throwing the reader into a universe of social misfits, reimagined scenes from history, and ridiculous overreactions. In one piece, a tense email exchange between a young man and his girlfriend is taken over by the man’s sister, who is obsessed with the Bosnian genocide (The situation reminds me of a little historical blip called the Karadordevo agreement); in another, a college freshman forced to live with a roommate is stunned when one of her ramen packets goes missing (she didn’t have “one” f my ramens. She had a chicken ramen); in another piece, Alexander Graham Bell has teething problems with his invention (I’ve been calling Mabel all day, she doesn’t pick up! Yees, of course I dialled the right number – 2!).

United by Eisenberg’s gift for humor and character, and grouped into chapters that each open with an illustration by award-winning cartoonist Jean Jullien, the witty pieces collected in Bream Gives Me Hiccups explore the various insanities of the modern world, and mark the arrival of a fantastically funny, self-ironic, and original voice.

The Review

Ok, I admit that I only wanted to read this book to see what Jesse Eisenberg had to bring to the literary table. I had read other books by actors before and been really disappointed and so I was prepared to go off with a smug face and say “Oh, Bream Gives Me Hiccups is awful. Jesse Eisenberg should just stick to what he knows” but I got my eye wiped. Bream Gives Me Hiccups is a damn fine piece of writing.

The collection of short stories varies from the sad to the weird to the downright scary. It is a cornucopia of understanding of modern society and everyday life. Issues of divorce, bitterness, stalking, social media, dating etc are dealt with in really funny and unique ways.

My favourite story from the collection is Nick Garret’s Review of Rachel Lowenstein’s New Book, Getting Away in which a book reviewer is critiquing a feminist piece which we are lead to assume is written by the reviewers ex (although it never explicitly says this); it is a scathing attack on a scathing attack. It is clever and funny.

Please do not judge this book by its author. I did and I was wrong. I apologise Jesse Eisenberg

Bream Gives Me Hiccups & Other Stories by Jesse Eisenberg is available now.

Bream Gives Me Hiccups